Petroleum company Ampol’s claims of carbon-neutral fuel are the subject of a legal letter of complaint over alleged greenwashing by communications industry group Comms Declare, represented by the Environmental Defenders Office.
Ampol markets its “carbon-neutral” petrol and diesel products to business customers, claiming to offset the “the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the sourcing, refining, distribution, retailing and consumption” of their products.
Comms Declare’s complaint to Ad Standards alleges a Facebook post about the product is a breach of Section 1 of the authority’s Environmental Claims Code that relates to misleading or deceptive conduct in relation to environmental claims.
The complaint states that Ampol’s carbon-neutral fuel relies entirely on carbon offsets, including cheaper international offsets, which cannot be proven effective in reducing all the emissions from the fuel.
In 2021, the Dutch Ad Standards Board ruled an advertisement by Shell about its carbon neutral fuel was misleading, and demanded it be pulled.
Comms Declare Founder Belinda Noble said:
“Carbon neutral petrol is today’s menthol cigarettes – it pretends to be healthy while keeping you addicted to toxic chemicals.
“The people who buy this product are being given a false sense of security that they are helping the environment.
“The offsets include overseas projects such as ‘improved kitchen regimes’ in Africa that seems impossible to independently verify as it would involve monitoring the wood use in thousands of homes.
“Advertising self-regulation of greenwashing is not working, which is why we are calling for all fossil fuel advertisements to be banned.”
EDO Managing Lawyer Kirsty Ruddock said:
“Greenwashing is dangerous because it delays meaningful action on greenhouse gas emissions and fools the increasingly climate-conscious public into thinking that harmful products are actually good for the environment.
“We say Ampol’s claims that petrol or diesel fuels can be carbon-neutral could mislead consumers into thinking that their driving does not contribute to Australia’s emissions and as a result, emissions could increase.
“In fact, transport is the fastest growing source of Australia’s emissions. This is at a time when we need to be rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit the effects of dangerous climate change.
“On behalf of Comms Declare, we are alleging that Ampol’s claims of carbon-neutral petrol and diesel are misleading. We’re calling on Ad Standards to investigate these claims for breaches of the code.”